Reference Library – England – County Durham – Billingham

Up to 16,000 more ultrafast broadband premises for County Durham

More broadband options are always a better thing and the news that Virgin Media is to roll-out to another 16,000 premises in County Durham will be welcome news for those set to benefit. The headline message from the press release is about the ultrafast broadband service that Virgin Media is rolling out being 20 times faster than the local average when compared to County Durham and while we would have agreed with a 300 Mbps service being 20 times the 15 Mbps average reported by Ofcom in its Connected Nations Report 2016 it is important to note that the average we are recording for County Durham has gone from 18.2 Mbps in Q3/2016 to 21.3 Mbps in Q3/2016 and if everyone who can get faster services was to upgrade an average in the 45 to 48 Mbps is possible. The expansion in Durham will include premises in Chester-le-Street, Consett and Stanley with the first locations completed in early 2018 and the target of 16,000 set to complete by the end of 2019.

While it makes no difference to the broadband speeds available to order the roll-out will be a mixture of Hybrid Fibre Coax (FTTN) and the full fibre (FTTP) that Virgin Media is using in some areas.

16,000 premises represents 6.6% of the premises in County Durham giving the county around 7.2% coverage at ultrafast speeds if no overlap with existing networks, so for those wishing for much wider ultrafast broadband coverage in counties like this we need a lot more announcements like this. The averages in press releases are going to be interesting once the new average peak time speeds in broadband advertising rules kick in, since competing providers are going to be watching closely to ensure that older figures are not used which show them in a poorer light than their own current figures and as peak time speeds can vary the public might need to get used to variations in adverts with speeds of 154 Mbps one quarter and 156 Mbps in another. Virgin Media already publishes the results[1] from its own SamKnows testing population and these show the 50 Mbps service does not need to change (they could if they want advertise 52 Mbps under new rules – the Ofcom 2016 report suggests a range of 38.2 to 45.4 Mbps at peak times on the 50 Mbps service) and the change is minimal for the other products e.g. up to 100 Mbps would be 99 Mbps, up to 200 Mbps shifting to 188 Mbps and the up to 300 Mbps service to 290 Mbps based on the October 2017 figures.

You may think this question of timing is academic but when you have the Ofcom 2016 report saying 38.2 Mbps to 45.4 Mbps for the 50 Mbps service and 169 to 177.2 Mbps on the up to 200 Mbps you can quickly see the scope for complaints, even when an identical testing methodology is in use.


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Broadband boost for Durham

Virgin Media announced that homes and businesses in Durham will be next to benefit from an ultrafast broadband and entertainment boost.As part of its network expansion project, Virgin Media plans to extend its ultrafast network to up to 16,000 properties in Durham by the end of 2019. This will transform the quality of broadband in County Durham where the average download speed is just 15Mbps.*Those who wish to take Virgin Media’s internet services will be connected to ultrafast broadband, reaching speeds of up to 300Mbps for residents and 350Mbps for small businesses.Faster broadband speeds also make it possible to stream ultra-high-definition TV, with local residents able to benefit from the latest entertainment on Virgin TV’s new smallest, smartest, fastest, 4k-ready Virgin TV V6 set-top box. The box has the ability to stream live TV, recordings, on demand shows and movies around the home.This is on top of great programming with up to 245 TV channels (including 50 HD channels) with all the football available in one place, including Sky Sports and BT Sports.

Virgin Media also offers Sky Movies and Netflix, as well as an extensive on demand library of TV box sets and movies.Residents can also benefit from Virgin Mobile’s fast 4G connectivity which includes data free Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, as well as the ability to rollover unused data each month.Hugh Woolford, Regional Director at Virgin Media, said:“By expanding our network to thousands more homes and businesses we are making Durham a digital hotspot, and time-strapped families will soon be benefitting from the reliability of a service that’s 20 times faster than the local average.”Councillor Joy Allen, cabinet member for transformation, said:“We know having access to fast broadband is a high priority for many people in our county, particularly those in rural areas where being able to use the internet easily and quickly is extremely important. The increased speeds will be particularly welcomed by small businesses who rely on fast connectivity and who could see their companies transformed by this opportunity.”Backed by parent company Liberty Global, Virgin Media is to extend its ultrafast fibre broadband network to an additional 4 million premises, to reach a total of 17 million homes and businesses.Project Lightning: Supercharging the UK’s digital infrastructure: further information, visit:[1]Notes to Editors* The average (median) broadband speed in County Durham is 15.4Mbps. Source: Ofcom, Connected Nations Report 2016, published February 2017.
Ultrafast broadband up to 300Mbps
For residents, Virgin Media’s Vivid 300 broadband offers the fastest widely available broadband – with download speeds of up to 300Mbps.

This is four times faster than Virgin Media’s main competitors’ top speeds and gives households more bandwidth to stream, game, chat and work all at the same time on multiple connected devices.For small businesses, Virgin Media Business now offers ultrafast connectivity, with speeds of up to 350Mbps as standard – almost four times faster than its main competitors’ widely available top speeds. This enables businesses to reach their potential by delivering better services and greater capacity.Virgin TV V6 box, powered by TiVoThe new Virgin TV V6 box is Virgin Media’s smallest, smartest and fastest box yet. It is half the size of the previous TiVo box with 10x the power and packed with a load of extra features.

It allows people to record six programmes while watching a seventh recording or stream from services such as iPlayer or Netflix. The Virgin TV V6 box is designed so that recordings can be accessed and streamed on other TiVo boxes around the home and support 4K Ultra-High Definition (UHD) TV with Netflix and YouTube available in 4K from launch and more programming coming soon.Fast 4G mobile connectivityVirgin Mobile was the world’s first virtual mobile operator when it launched in 1999. It is one of the largest MVNOs in the UK with 3 million subscribers.

Instead of owning mobile infrastructure, Virgin Mobile uses infrastructure provided on a wholesale basis by network operator EE.

In November 2016 Virgin Mobile launched 4G in the UK, combined with innovative new services that give customers free messaging on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and the ability to “rollover” unused data.For more product information, visit[2]


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Council Offering Cash to Help Homes and Businesses Get Faster Broadband

If you’re frustrated with the speed of your internet connection, Durham County Council may be able to help. The Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme (BBSS) gives cash grants to homes and businesses which do not have access to speeds of at least two megabits per second. Digital Durham – which administers BBSS in County Durham on behalf of the UK government – can provide up to ?350 towards the cost of installing a better connection.

Alan Patrickson, head of digital and customer services at Durham County Council – which leads Digital Durham – said, “Our programme has brought faster fibre broadband to more than 120,000 households and businesses to date, with another 15,000 set to benefit in the next year.” “There are a small percentage of properties which we are unable to connect at this stage.” “However, the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme may be able to help people get access to faster internet[1] speeds now through alternative technologies such as satellite, 4G or wireless, and we’d really encourage them to find out whether they’re eligible.”

@DigitalDurham resulted in over 105,000 properties having access to fibre broadband in #Durham!

Can they help you?[2][3][4][5] — DurhamCountyCouncil (@DurhamCouncil) October 9, 2017[6]

The BBSS scheme contributes towards the hardware and installation costs of getting connected, but residents will still need to pay any additional charges such as monthly service fees. The scheme is being rolled out in two stages.

The first stage saw 107,000 homes and businesses being given faster connections and it is hoped the second stage will see a further 29,000 hooked up to faster broadband by September 2018. Digital Durham is a ?34-million project which aims to transform broadband speeds across the north east. In addition to Durham County Council, Digital Durham offers the BBSS scheme in partnership with Darlington Borough Council, Gateshead Council, North Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Council, Sunderland City Council, Middlesbrough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.

To find out more about the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme and Digital Durham, please go to[7]

(Featured image courtesy of John Lester[8], from Flickr Creative Commons)

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